Woss school faces closure — again

For the second time in two years, declining enrolment has put Woss Lake Elementary School on School District 85’s chopping block.

PORT McNEILL—For the second time in two years, declining enrolment has put Woss Lake Elementary School on School District 85’s chopping block.

In a 5-2 vote, trustees approved first reading of a bylaw that could result in the closure of the remote logging hamlet’s school, which currently has just four students, effective June 30.

“The first reading does not mean that the school will close,” board chair Leighton Wishart said during the regular January meeting, held at North Island Secondary School. “It just opens the process for us to discuss the possibility of closing the school.”

It is not the first such discussion. Woss Lake Elementary was one of three schools — along with Robert Scott Elementary in Port Hardy and Cheslakees Elementary in Port McNeill — listed in a closure bylaw examined by the board in February of 2010 as it faced an anticipated $1 million budget shortfall.

Woss Lake and Cheslakees survived the cut that year, though in 2011 Cheslakees was converted to a kindergarten and early learning centre as its grade 1 through 5 students were rolled into nearby Sunset Elementary.

As soon as first reading of the current bylaw was approved, Woss Lake Elementary received a reprieve, when second and third readings were pushed back to late March or April.

The Ministry of Education funding formula provides a larger per-pupil amount for the more remote schools in the province. When asked how much SD85 would save by closing Woss Elementary — or, conversely, how much it would cost to keep it open — secretary-treasurer John Martin said he could not yet answer, because the ministry will not release its funding figures for next school year until March 15.

“I’m looking here (at the bylaw) and seeing a third reading in our meeting Mar. 12,” trustee Jeff Field said. “It doesn’t make sense to make a decision on the 12th when you’re waiting for important budget information on the 15th.”

Martin agreed, and trustees approved striking the dates for second and third reading before voting on the first reading.

In addition to giving the board time to gather funding information, the reprieve will allow the district more time to research how many students are actually expected to attend the school should it remain open for the 2012-13 school year.

“As we know from previous experience, lots can change in the lives of parents and students from month to month,” said Martin. “I’m sure the (Woss) community will be trying to advocate for the school and trying to promote the school staying open.”

The bylaw will, however need to be decided by the end of April, as 60 days notice are required to the Ministry of Education before the scheduled June 30 closing date.

“I really hate this process,” said Wishart. “This is the third or fourth time I’ve been through this, and it’s the worst possible job a school trustee can go through because you’re affecting people’s lives.

“In a situation like this, you’re also affecting a community and its ability to draw in young families into the community.”

 

Just Posted

Port Harvey bylaw lands in supreme court

Property owners attempt to quash zoning bylaw allowing shipyard

Council requests Port McNeill Kids in Motion follow donation policy

“I think because we put all this work into our new donation policy, people should be filling it out.”

Port Alice gets a Frigon sign

“A beautiful scenic drive awaits on the Frigon Road.”

Taxing Vancouver Island

Big Read: find out which communities are paying the lowest and highest taxes on Vancouver Island

Students solve crimes in forensics workshops

Geneskool visits PHSS and Eke Me-Xi

B.C. BMX kid wows GoPro with homemade video

Eight-year-old Rex Johnson wins award for inventive video

Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna suspended for 75 games

23-year-old pitcher faces assault charge

Vancouver Canucks tab Quinn Hughes with No. 7 overall pick in NHL draft

University of Michigan standout was second defenceman picked in first round

Gun, drugs and cash seized in arrest of alleged B.C. fentanyl dealer

Vancouver Island man Brent Connors is facing nine charges in relation to investigation

Jogger spent two weeks in U.S. detention centre after accidentally crossing B.C. border

Cedella Roman, 19, crossed the border while out for a run

PHOTOS: Police rescue baby seal found on rocky B.C. shoreline

Marina Mammal Rescue Centre recommends residents observe from a distance

B.C. woman with severely disabled son keeps getting parking tickets

‘There has to be something they could do’

Man brandishes axe during robbery

Mounties were able to locate the suspect within two hours of the incident

‘Creep off’ reporting system aims to track street harassment in Metro Vancouver

Text-based hotline launches to collect public reports on where and when harassment occurs

Most Read